Richard Pinches Photography is a commercial advertising photography studio started by Richard Pinches in 1988. www.richardpinches.co.uk
Mainly working from the studio complex on his parents’ farm in Henley-on-Thames after Richard converted his father’s cow shed into a drive-in car studio. From here Richard and his team photographed brochures and advertising commissions for 3M, BMW, Bosch, Dell, Mini, Leo Burnett, McCann Erickson, Ricoh, Saatchi and Saatchi, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Xerox to name a brief few. Richard is the principal photographer, with 40 years’ experience behind the camera. The team now includes other photographers, assistants, videographers and assorted freelance crew. The nature of the business is now a ‘one-stop shop’ where visual projects can be completed from concept through to postproduction. Videography requires a more protracted process involving storyboarding, pre-production, shooting, and then editing, graphics, and sound design.
Many projects are studio based and require lighting and often complex set up including constructing room sets. The studio is also designed for car photography which was a principal part of the business for many years. Richard photographed all the Hyundai car brochures for 5 years, which was a combination of studio and location photography. These where urban and rural locations, depending on the style of car and sometimes the locations were abroad in sunny Mediterranean locations. Richard and team photographed all the Dell computer brochures for 5 years as well. His team of photographers execute large brochure and catalogues shots of products and fashion brands, some lasting many weeks and involving models, stylists, both make up stylists and clothing and set stylists. Many of these freelancers have become regular team members.
Other major clients have been 3M, BMW, Bosch, British Airways. Dell, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, Mini, Leo Burnett, McCann Erickson, Ricoh, Saatchi and Saatchi, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Sony and Xerox to name but a few. The resulting photography is advertising, posters magazines or brochures and point of sale material or more recently purely digital output on web sites or digital installations.
In the beginning.
Richard Pinches started his career as an advertising photographer in 1985 after leaving Reading College of Art Design with a diploma in commercial and advertising photography. After working in some well-known advertising studios in London on a short-term basis, Richard took a full time job as an assistant to Paul Howard Photography in Reading. Paul was also an ex-student of BCAD and was well known and respected in his field. His studio catered for his many advertising clients which included BMW and Porsche.
As a young assistant Richard’s duties included preparing kit, sweeping floors and making tea. All the lowly jobs but Richard would also get to drive the brand-new cars to locations, a job that he loved. It was here that Richard learnt superior lighting and photography skills that would set him up in the future.
Richard’s very first commission was to photograph a group of mechanics that had won an award that was to be presented to them at BMW’s headquarters by the chairman of BMW UK. Richard was still an assistant at the time working with Paul Howard who, in hindsight feigned an appointment, so that Richard could get a taste of a commissioned shoot. Richard was very nervous about this first job, although it was only taken a matter of 15 or 20 minutes to execute, he imagined having a little car crash to get him out of it! In hindsight now of course this was completely stupid and he’s thankful for Paul Howard for pushing him. It was Paul Howard’s insistence that he produced one good portfolio shot every month while he was working for Paul which eventually got him his first job as a junior photographer at another larger studio.
Richard could see there wasn’t a lot of future working for Paul. Richard spent many hours in the darkroom producing black and white press prints from BMW and Porsche which gave his fingers Metol (developing chemical) poisoning which is like an eczema rash. When Richard told Paul he was leaving Paul said, “Oh that’s a shame, I’ve just bought a black and white processing machine to save your fingers!”
Richard was able to get a job as a studio photographer, using the portfolio Paul had encouraged him to make, in a much larger studio near Maidenhead. Giles Smith photography, this meant Richard went from £22 a day as assistant to a heady £25 a day as a junior photographer. This was a great opportunity for Richard to work directly with clients and be self-reliant in handling the briefs and invoicing his own jobs as part of this larger studio with several other photographers. He was working with pharmaceutical, lifestyle and corporate brands. Richard had only left college 11 months previously, so this is quite a leap but despite a couple of tough months getting to grips with the new role and the responsibilities it held, he soon found his feet. This was 1987 and Richard was now being charged out at £450 a day by his boss. This encouraged him to think of the future as he knew he didn’t want to work for £25 a day to line someone else’s pockets.
Setting up his own studio.
After two years working at Giles’s studio Richard left in 1988 to set up the studio on his parent’s farm in a small outbuilding of 600 square foot building but soon as his client base grew each more space in the adjacent barn to do room sets and car photography and eventually, he ended up building a new complex, to join the existing studio to make a total of 3 1/2 thousand square foot. http://www.meadowsfarmstudios.co.uk/ This included two drive in coves and two lifestyle studios. the studio was perfectly set up to handle his ever-increasing client base and his reputation grew with it. The only slight hiccup was when he separated from his wife and co-director of the business in 2001, where he then moved into a flat that he built above one of the studios, they were still amicable and in fact his father-in-law was his set builder and van driver.
Adapting the business.
The business was thriving with most studio spaces were busy all the time with three photographers and associated assistants. Then came the digital revolution which meant that the large format film skills slowly became redundant.
Anyone who could handle a computer and digital camera was able to start producing images that were ‘good enough’ for a lot of professional shoots. Especially the graphic designers amongst them who were starting to do their work in house and retouching to improve any issues that they couldn’t correct when lighting products. This was quite a blow to the business and to work took a downturn. However, there was a flip side to the digital revolution which was that digital video was easier to shoot and edit compared to previous clunky, nonlinear tape systems.
Richard has always believed a business needs to adapt and shooting digital video was one of the first major adaptations for his business,
Rich was now able to incorporate videos into some of his current client’s shoots and soon he was converting one of his studios into a soundproofed greenscreen studio which became a new core part of the business.
The team now shoots more video than stills. Liz is Richard’s partner and also his director/producer and editor of videos. These include corporate videos, documentaries as well as some narrative film work which has included a couple of feature films. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4966702/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 . Both Richard and Liz are qualified drone operators as well as one of their freelancers. https://www.aerialfilmingphotographyuk.com. Richard and his team also live stream events which was a big part of the business during lock down when events around the world will cancelled, people came to use the green screen studio which could mimic a conference with a CGI background. Richard and crew now also live stream rowing events with multiple cameras, drone and associated streaming equipment.
Photographic stills are still a part of the business, and the digital revolution has made this an awful lot more efficient. Turnaround of images now is immediate whereas on film-based cameras it always took a minimum of several hours to get the film back from a color laboratory. The digital systems also meant shoots can be far more creative, often combining many different shots to produce one good image retouched together to produce stunning imagery that you could never have achieved in a single image on film.
Richard now sees a far wider diversity of clients since he started working all those years ago. One person can have an idea and start a website very cost effectively now and require media content. Indeed, there were many startups in COVID with small businesses which needed content quickly for websites and Richard was able assist and he started hi sone ‘work local’ social media campaign using the local Facebook community pages to raise the studio’s profile.
One very recent challenge is the price of electricity which has gone up exponentially in the last couple of years the studio equipment was used for many years it was old fashioned tungsten resistance lighting which costs quite a lot of money to run however new technology uses cool running LED and plasma systems which use a fraction of the electricity which is a big bonus to studio businesses what’s up for a while Richard was actually buying large studio lighting rigs in auctions for peanuts and selling them on to companies that want historic lighting for films or are shipping it abroad to third world countries. Richard has bought many BBC studios lighting rigs, the biggest was BBC Cardiff where he bought 55 lights for £400 the approximate cost new would be over £100,000. but He was able to get roughly £10,000 after splitting them up to sell.
For simply photographic shots Richard typically just one assistant but Richard’s diverse skill set means he is often booked to shot video and photography simultaneously were he uses his bigger crew of extra camera operators, lighting technician, sound recordists, autocue operator lighting etc. to facilitate the divergent work.
Richard says “I’ve be very lucky, but I do believe you make your own luck. I have pushed myself further than my comfort zones to get where I am, which I think he’s the only way to be if you want to be successful. I was very shy and lacking in personal confidence but the one thing I was confident in was my photographic ability. Also, my family were all hardworking farm people and laziness was never an option. I’ve also been quite lucky the I have seen where my business needs to adapt to changing situations. If I had one piece of advice I would say if you have an idea, act on it don’t let it linger because somebody else might come up with it before you”
“I also think in the past I’ve massively undervalued my business and the resources that I offered to clients through the early years. It’s a tough lesson to charge yourself out at a reasonable rate as there is typically that doubt of self-belief that makes you undercharge your services. I’ve invoiced over 5 million pounds over my 35 years and whilst I think tht is amazing, I think if I had the confidence I have now I could have easily added a million pounds to that turnover, but as they say, hindsight is 20:20 vision! “
“The more services you can offer, the more reliant clients become on you. However, it is also very important not to over stretch and fail to deliver on a client’s expectations, the industry saying is ‘You are only as good as your last job! I recommend using quiet days to research trends, practice your skills and retrain in another field if necessary. Although… 3 of us went on a 360 Virtual Reality 2 day course in London as we thought this was going to take, off. I think we only did two 360 VR shoots in total, that was a fad that died! But I don’t regret trying.”
The ever-changing industry.
The media industry is ever changing and becoming more diverse, and results are required spontaneously. Social media is having a big influence and Richard is seeing competitors shoot and edit videos on mobile phones to upload videos almost instantaneously. TikTok videos especially are in resurgence, of which Richard is being asked to quote for frequently, however he tends to lose out to younger professionals who are keener for the work. Richard is very happy with his client base as is, and at this late stage in the game he’s not considering changing the way he works, as retirement is only around the corner for him, but social media is not going away anytime soon as those keen willing to fully embrace will never be out or work.
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